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Thread: XTC - SKYLARKING [Blu-Ray Audio]

  1. #1
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    Default XTC - SKYLARKING [Blu-Ray Audio]

    Please post your thoughts and comments on this 2016 release of the classic XTC album "Skylarking", featuring a 5.1 surround mix by Steven Wilson.
    This CD/Blu-Ray set is available to order from Burning Shed (the official APE store) or Headphone Dust (the official Steven Wilson store).



    Skylarking Back.jpg
    Skylarking Inside.jpg


    Surround yourself with the best.

    Here's to 2017!

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    Default Re: XTC - SKYLARKING [Blu-Ray Audio]

    I keep wondering if, at some point, they'll trip up and release a dud one of these, but not this time. Once again, Wilson's sympathetic 5.1 mix allows the delightful songcraft to breathe and occupy the larger soundstage. I'm less familiar with this album as I was with the likes of Drums & Wires, but nevertheless, this is another title truly deserving of the moniker "definitive".

    As for the wealth of content, there's plenty to keep the ardent fan happy and the uninitiated one on a path of sonic learning. The inclusion of both polarity versions is brave as it is educational.

    Packaging is simple, yet very well made, matching the rest in the series nicely.

    Another star in the XTC Surround firmament

    An easy 10 from me.
    Rob

    Failed Muso
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    Default Re: XTC - SKYLARKING [Blu-Ray Audio]

    My relationship with this album got off to a slow start. On the week of its original release I listened to an interview with the band on BBC radio. Andy Partridge did a marvellous job of telling us just how bad the album was - at least that's the way it sounded to me! I decided not to buy it... Some time later one of the songs on Skylarking was included on a Q magazine compilation CD. The Meeting Place was the stand-out track and it was obvious that Skylarking needed to be given a chance.

    I loved it from first listen, probably their best album, or is that English Settlement? It's an album I return to regularly and I bought the corrected polarity version too (still not sure that I can hear the difference...). The recent vinyl release is tempting, but I can resist!

    Now we have the Steven Wilson remixes and I'm left speechless. It's glorious. In the same week that my expectations were reset by Tales from Topographic Oceans we have a new contender for the best ever. It great to read the booklet and learn that even Andy Partridge appreciates the work of Todd Rundgren now. 'The Man Who Sailed Around His Soul' is breathtaking as is the closing 'Sacrificial Bonfire'. Not a bad track here even my least favourite 'Big Day' is a treat in this incarnation.

    This will be another 10 from me - only the fourth I've ever given if I remember correctly.

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    Default Re: XTC - SKYLARKING [Blu-Ray Audio]

    Just on the first run through and yes another winner possibly XTC's most accessible album, and a set which shows exactly what can be done with a blu ray disc and will no doubt make me wonder later why there is not more on the Coldplay disc which arrived at the same time.

    Back to XTC a Wilson winner of a mix sympathetic to the very strong song writing. We know Andy has a bit of a love hate issue with the album because of Todd whatever the problems it makes for a great album.

    and how many extras I just don't know where to start its g0ing to take a month just to get through them.
    Cheers Fletch

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    Default Re: XTC - SKYLARKING [Blu-Ray Audio]

    Regarding the packaging...
    The quality is improved on the previous XTC Blu-Rays and I much prefer it to the mini LP style of the Yes Blu-Rays.
    Has anyone else noticed the hidden alternative album art on the inside of the slipcase?

    Ian

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    Default Re: XTC - SKYLARKING [Blu-Ray Audio]

    Well...after ten rounds hearing it, this is another
    great XTC release.
    As always the mix is opening up the soundfield.
    The use of the rears is again nearly perfect.
    I would have wished for a little more deep bass.

    A 9 for me.
    One day at a time!
    (331 DVD-Audios, 477 Multichannel-SACDs, 52 Stereo-SACDs, 28 Blu-Ray-Audio, 116 Audio-DVD/DTS-CDs)

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    Default Re: XTC - SKYLARKING [Blu-Ray Audio]

    If there's any disc I really wanted to review this year, it's been this one, so here it goes!

    From the opening cricket chirps you know you're in for something really special. Then the melodica comes in from the surround channels, and it takes your breath away! This album probably represents the biggest improvement of all XTC albums so far when transitioning from stereo to surround. On "Summer's Cauldron" the acoustic guitar is passed around all channels, and the backing vocals emanate from all around you. It really is something else, then comes that magnificent transition to "Grass". Once again, the surround speakers fill up, mostly with those great string arrangements! The guitars also have a better tone to them on the remix than they do on the original stereo mix.
    While "That's Really Super Supergirl" has a good surround mix, the drum sound on this track has not aged well at all, and that's one of the only downsides so far.
    Thankfully the drums sound much better on "Ballet For A Rainy Day", and it's another backing vocal showcase in the surround channels.
    "Season Cycle" is another fun surround mix. These XTC surround mixes show off how good they were at backing vocal arrangements, especially inspired by the likes of the Beach Boys on this song.
    "Earn Enough For Us" might be my favorite song on the album, and the surround mix does little to disappoint. Lots of guitars everywhere!
    I like how Steven Wilson brought down the vocal echo return on "Another Satellite", and the percussion passing around all channels is another nice touch!
    "The Man Who Sailed Around His Soul" is another favorite of mine, and it's probably my favorite surround mix on the album.
    On the contrary, "Dear God" has never been a favorite of mine, but I do love the moment where the drums kick in and the little's boy voice transitions to Andy. It's a lovely production touch! Well done, Todd!
    I also like the clean break between "Dear God" and "Dying". It feels a lot more natural than the fake transition added on the 2010 corrected polarity release.
    Finally, the album closes with "Sacrificial Bonfire", and I can now declare this the best surround release of 2016!
    It's also the best release so far in the XTC surround sound series, so go get it, now!

    '10' all the way!

    Surround yourself with the best.

    Here's to 2017!

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    Default Re: XTC - SKYLARKING [Blu-Ray Audio]

    Quote Originally Posted by rtbluray View Post
    If there's any disc I really wanted to review this year, it's been this one, so here it goes!

    From the opening cricket chirps you know you're in for something really special. Then the melodica comes in from the surround channels, and it takes your breath away! This album probably represents the biggest improvement of all XTC albums so far when transitioning from stereo to surround. On "Summer's Cauldron" the acoustic guitar is passed around all channels, and the backing vocals emanate from all around you. It really is something else, then comes that magnificent transition to "Grass". Once again, the surround speakers fill up, mostly with those great string arrangements! The guitars also have a better tone to them on the remix than they do on the original stereo mix.
    While "That's Really Super Supergirl" has a good surround mix, the drum sound on this track has not aged well at all, and that's one of the only downsides so far.
    Thankfully the drums sound much better on "Ballet For A Rainy Day", and it's another backing vocal showcase in the surround channels.
    "Season Cycle" is another fun surround mix. These XTC surround mixes show off how good they were at backing vocal arrangements, especially inspired by the likes of the Beach Boys on this song.
    "Earn Enough For Us" might be my favorite song on the album, and the surround mix does little to disappoint. Lots of guitars everywhere!
    I like how Steven Wilson brought down the vocal echo return on "Another Satellite", and the percussion passing around all channels is another nice touch!
    "The Man Who Sailed Around His Soul" is another favorite of mine, and it's probably my favorite surround mix on the album.
    On the contrary, "Dear God" has never been a favorite of mine, but I do love the moment where the drums kick in and the little's boy voice transitions to Andy. It's a lovely production touch! Well done, Todd!
    I also like the clean break between "Dear God" and "Dying". It feels a lot more natural than the fake transition added on the 2010 corrected polarity release.
    Finally, the album closes with "Sacrificial Bonfire", and I can now declare this the best surround release of 2016!
    It's also the best release so far in the XTC surround sound series, so go get it, now!

    '10' all the way!
    Have to say you have encapsulated my thoughts perfectly, this is one of Steven s best mixes backed by Todd's production, and of course the great tunes written by XTC.

    The bonus tracks are just the icing on the cake, and this is fighting with Yes Tales...

    My favourite for this year
    Cheers Fletch

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    Default Re: XTC - SKYLARKING [Blu-Ray Audio]

    I wasn't a big fan of this album, mainly liking the songs Grass and Dear God - until I heard the 5.1mix, a definite 10 from me.

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    Default Re: XTC - SKYLARKING [Blu-Ray Audio]

    all the XTC surround issues have been great, now if I could just have Black Sea and English Settlement in 5.1...

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    Default Re: XTC - SKYLARKING [Blu-Ray Audio]

    XTC would have to be my favorite pop group after the Beatles so, needless to say, each new Surround Sound Series release has been an absolute treat for me. Iíve always been a bit frustrated with the fidelity of this album (regardless of corrected polarity or increased RPM!) but thankfully this new version is an improvement. I love the surround mix. There were fewer surprises for me than with the previous XTC surrounds - that is, buried elements brought to the fore. But, oh my, the arrangements really shine in the expanded soundstage! Iím particularly enamored with the backing vocals and all the percussive and orchestral elements. I also love the active panning throughout - always effective and appropriate, never gimmicky. My favorite is the swirling, phased strings circling the drain before the final chorus in "1000 Umbrellas".

    Iím always happy for the instrumental mixes. The biggest smile was in hearing those goofy Mariachi Ďtrumpetsí in "Big Day".

    How nice to get as a bonus the studio versions of "Letís Make a Den" and "The Troubles". Dig that infectious Bo Diddley beat in "Troubles"!

    Hidden alternative album art inside the slip case! Nice touch.

    A 10 all the way for me.

    PS to RT: One minor correction to your post - despite the use of a boy in the video, the beginning vocal in "Dear God" is a little girl.

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    Default Re: XTC - SKYLARKING [Blu-Ray Audio]

    Listening to this in the car right now. The first 3-4 songs are fantastic, but it almost feels like the drums are a little less prominent in the mix. One of the things I loved about the original mix was the snare that seemed to cut through the mix (on most songs, anyway). Kind of feels a little diminished, but that's the only negative thing I have to say. I knew SW would be able to work magic on this already great record.

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    Default Re: XTC - SKYLARKING [Blu-Ray Audio]

    Bull moose just let me know that my purchase is back ordered.

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    Default Re: XTC - SKYLARKING [Blu-Ray Audio]

    "Everybody says join our religion, get to Heaven. I say no thanks. Why bless my soul? I'm already there!"

    Now there's a lyric that perfectly describes the feeling of hearing it mixed into surround.

    Just finished my second listen to this. Surprisingly, on my first listen I was a little underwhelmed. I think I may have been expecting the overactive nature of the Oranges & Lemons mix (which I loved.) But I realized on the second listen that Steven was perfectly respecting the feel of the original. I'm not suggesting that this is a mix that is light on the rear speakers, it's anything but. The album opens with those mischievous chirping crickets and barking dog all around you, immediately submerging you into Rundgren's summer's day concept. And then that mosquito goes buzzing by your head....

    "Please don't pull me out, this is how I would want to go."

    Soon, light acoustic guitars are drifting behind you. I'm normally not a fan of separating lead and harmony vocals, but Steven puts Colin's vocal in the rear and it really gives you a greater appreciation for what Colin is contributing. I could go on talking about specifics to the mixes on each track, but that's been pretty well explained above. There certainly are moments that really made me smile. The lyric "the man who sailed around his soul" sailing around my head, well that's the sort of moment that made me fall in love to begin with. "That's Really Super Supergirl" has a sort of bouncy mix that fits the mood of the song. Throughout, the new mix makes full use of the surround field in a tasteful way.

    Of course one would expect that XTC collaborating with Todd Rundgren couldn't help but yield some results that were at times Beatle-esque. But Steven's mix really brings out some of these moments that I never really appreciated before. The cello parts (brilliantly arranged by Dave Gregory) in "1,000 Umbrellas" have a real "I Am the Walrus" quality to them. Colin's harmonies (coming out of the rear speakers) on "Big Day" feel like they're straight out of Revolver.

    I've always enjoyed the instrumental mixes that Steven has added to these discs, but this one may be my favorite. The melodies, harmonies and lyrics on Skylarking are all so gorgeous that it's very easy to focus on the vocals and not pay enough attention to the rest of the music. The instrumental mixes reveal the truly fantastic arrangements underneath.

    Working my way through the demos now. The one that really strikes me is the difference between the demo and the final version of "The Man Who Sailed Around His Soul." In the liner notes, Andy mentions that he told Todd that he wanted the song to have some sort of beatnik meets James Bond type of feel. (The demo has none of these qualities.) Todd went away that night and had the completed arrangement ready the next day. Now I'm as big of a Rundgren fan as they come and have a great appreciation for the man's immense talents, but even I was stunned to realize how far Todd took the song in such a short period of time.

    As with all the XTC discs, this one is packed with extras and is the standard that all other reissues should be striving to equal.

    An easy 10.

    Really hoping Big Express is next. .....or Black Sea. .....or English Settlement. Man, these guys were on a roll in the 80's!

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    Default Re: XTC - SKYLARKING [Blu-Ray Audio]

    Quote Originally Posted by rtbluray View Post
    If there's any disc I really wanted to review this year, it's been this one, so here it goes!

    From the opening cricket chirps you know you're in for something really special. Then the melodica comes in from the surround channels, and it takes your breath away! This album probably represents the biggest improvement of all XTC albums so far when transitioning from stereo to surround. On "Summer's Cauldron" the acoustic guitar is passed around all channels, and the backing vocals emanate from all around you. It really is something else, then comes that magnificent transition to "Grass". Once again, the surround speakers fill up, mostly with those great string arrangements! The guitars also have a better tone to them on the remix than they do on the original stereo mix.
    While "That's Really Super Supergirl" has a good surround mix, the drum sound on this track has not aged well at all, and that's one of the only downsides so far.
    Thankfully the drums sound much better on "Ballet For A Rainy Day", and it's another backing vocal showcase in the surround channels.
    "Season Cycle" is another fun surround mix. These XTC surround mixes show off how good they were at backing vocal arrangements, especially inspired by the likes of the Beach Boys on this song.
    "Earn Enough For Us" might be my favorite song on the album, and the surround mix does little to disappoint. Lots of guitars everywhere!
    I like how Steven Wilson brought down the vocal echo return on "Another Satellite", and the percussion passing around all channels is another nice touch!
    "The Man Who Sailed Around His Soul" is another favorite of mine, and it's probably my favorite surround mix on the album.
    On the contrary, "Dear God" has never been a favorite of mine, but I do love the moment where the drums kick in and the little's boy voice transitions to Andy. It's a lovely production touch! Well done, Todd!
    I also like the clean break between "Dear God" and "Dying". It feels a lot more natural than the fake transition added on the 2010 corrected polarity release.
    Finally, the album closes with "Sacrificial Bonfire", and I can now declare this the best surround release of 2016!
    It's also the best release so far in the XTC surround sound series, so go get it, now!

    '10' all the way!
    Nice review, Ryan. Still waiting for this to arrive - can't wait any longer...

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    Default Re: XTC - SKYLARKING [Blu-Ray Audio]

    Wow. Whoever said Summer's Cauldron kicks things off properly, you nailed it. Rears are very well used.

    I'm tempted to vote 10 on the first track alone. We're now into Grass, and the joy continues.

    Skylarking was my first XTC album, thanks to a steady rotation of the "Dear God" video on MTV.

    What a wonderful job Steve Wilson did with this, and in retrospect, Rundgren helped create a masterpiece.

    I need to finish listening, but this will probably be my second 10 vote, after the Chicago Quadio set.

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    Default Re: XTC - SKYLARKING [Blu-Ray Audio]

    the more I hear this album in surround the more I like it. If I did not know it was a 30 year old recording i could had said the album was made for 5.1. Sounds similar to the Beatles in parts.

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    Default Re: XTC - SKYLARKING [Blu-Ray Audio]

    Now I am really loving this new remix! Finally got it in my hands after arriving home from Brisbane actually seeing Steven Wilson on Sunday evening, not to mention being on the same flight with the band from Sydney prior and also sitting next to Craig Blundell but that's another story. Anyway...

    Really loving all the unearthed details never heard before, the backing vocals, percussive elements on Mermaid Smiled and The Man Who Sailed Around His Soul for example. The moment Summer's Cauldron hits with all the insect chirping revolving around inside my headphones, I knew I was going to be excited going into this new mix. Like Ryan has already mentioned, Skylarking could well be the remix of the year. While I'm eagerly anticipating Stand Up, I already think Skylarking is going to be the winner.

    The added bonus tracks were really cool too. Wonder if I should insert Let's Make a Den into the middle of the album given that it was originally intended to kick off Side 2.

    Sent from my HTC 2PS6200 using Tapatalk

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    Default Re: XTC - SKYLARKING [Blu-Ray Audio]

    I'm writing this from the standpoint of someone who had never heard this album before this week... on first listen to the surround tracks 2 things were immediately evident: the sound quality is superb and the surround mix is stellar. The sound is clear and dynamic with just the right mix of high and low end. The mix is just amazing... Steven had many cool elements to work with on each track and he used them to the full extent possible, spreading the copious vocals around the room, bouncing sound effects around the listener, swirling guitar effects... and that's only on the first song! I'm really amazed at how many cool little surround techniques he works into every single song. As far as the musical content, I have to admit that on first listen, I found it all a bit... bland. So I spent a week listening to the CD in my car to and from work, and found that on each listen more and more layers were revealed, and I've really grown to enjoy it! If I had to describe the style, it's like eighties, adult contemporary, Brit Pop... if you're looking to rock out, look elsewhere, but if you want to hear pop songs with complex arrangements and melodies, unique instrumentation, and multi-layered lyrics all combined into a complete musical journey/concept that flows beautifully from start to finish, well, you've found it! "Summer's Cauldron/Grass" is the highlight for me (definitely a surround demo song); other cool moments are "1000 Umbrellas" (although this one isn't spectacular from a surround standpoint, it's just got a really cool "Eleanor Rigby" vibe); "Earn Enough For Us" is great for it's layers of guitars, and is the closest to "rocking out" that this album comes; "The Man Who Sailed Around His Soul" sounds like it could be from a James Bond soundtrack (and that's good!), and of course "Dear God" is the big hit from this one (actually, I'm finding this one the least interesting since I've heard it so many times!). There are Beatles influences throughout which add to the fun. I usually rip my surround albums to flac and leave out my least favorite songs... well, I couldn't leave any songs out of this one! (The 4 bonus songs are cool too... I especially like "The Troubles" with it's Bo Diddley beat!) 3/3 for sound, 3/3 for surround, 2/3 for content, and 1 bonus point for... all the bonus stuff packed onto this disc! 9.
    Last edited by skherbeck; 11-05-2016 at 04:57 AM.
    "One Quad to rule them all, One Quad to find them; One Quad to bring them all and in the darkness bind them."
    "The Quad is what gives a Sound System its power. It's a sound field created by four pulsing speakers that surrounds us and penetrates us."

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    Default Re: XTC - SKYLARKING [Blu-Ray Audio]

    I was holding off on voting for this and offering my review. Everyone seems to love it and I had a lot of problems with the mix. Then tonight, I realized that my 5.1 output levels needed to be tweaked, and now this album (a favorite of mine) sounds great! The content was already a 10. The mix and sound quality are now both 10s for me. I'm actually able to play the whole album at a fairly high volume without my ears getting too fatigued (something I *can't* do with SW's mix of "Tales From Topographic Oceans - but that's for another review).

    The standout track on "Oranges and Lemons" in terms of surround mixing is "Across This Antheap" (I think most would agree). On "Skylarking,' it's "The Man Who Sailed Around His Soul." I can't help but wonder if SW was paying homage to Enoch Light-style quad mixes at the start of this song, with vocal center, bass and cymbals LF, flute RF, finger snaps Lr and bongos Rr. Then everything opens up and MAN do those drums sound good!!

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    Default Re: XTC - SKYLARKING [Blu-Ray Audio]

    I voted a 10. As hard as I tried, I cannot find anything wrong with this release. Just superb!

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    Default Re: XTC - SKYLARKING [Blu-Ray Audio]

    Quote Originally Posted by Perpendicular View Post
    I voted a 10. As hard as I tried, I cannot find anything wrong with this release. Just superb!
    Me too, I love it, Previously all I was acquainted with was 'Drums & Wires' which was fantastic so I bought the 5.1 when that came out, great! then I listened to samples of Oranges & Lemons and Nonsuch as they where released in 5.1 but nothing grabbed me about the music so I didn't bother, but when I listened to Skylarking in stereo I thought ' Yes I like this' so I got it and I'm so glad I did, perhaps I ought to re-think Oranges and Nonsuch. Definitely anything coming after this.

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    Default Re: XTC - SKYLARKING [Blu-Ray Audio]

    Quote Originally Posted by svengaleekie View Post
    Me too, I love it, Previously all I was acquainted with was 'Drums & Wires' which was fantastic so I bought the 5.1 when that came out, great! then I listened to samples of Oranges & Lemons and Nonsuch as they where released in 5.1 but nothing grabbed me about the music so I didn't bother, but when I listened to Skylarking in stereo I thought ' Yes I like this' so I got it and I'm so glad I did, perhaps I ought to re-think Oranges and Nonsuch. Definitely anything coming after this.
    Yes... collect the set while they continue with new releases each year. Also somewhere along the way, I do hope they can track down the multi-tracks for Life Begins at the Hop as well. Last thing we want though is a reissue of the Drums and Wires remix.

    Sent from my HTC 2PS6200 using Tapatalk

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    Default Re: XTC - SKYLARKING [Blu-Ray Audio]

    Quote Originally Posted by atlantasteve View Post
    Bull moose just let me know that my purchase is back ordered.
    I cancelled with bull moose and ordered with deep discount. Got the disc in 3 days. Now time to sit back, close my eyes and enjoy!

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    Default Re: XTC - SKYLARKING [Blu-Ray Audio]

    Incredible all round. One of my favourite albums by anyone is now a more incredible listening experience than it has ever been. I love the discrete placements of vocals and percussion particularly. SW has used the 'swirling' effect more than any other XTC release here (strings and acoustic guitars), but in a tasteful way that perfectly suits the music.

    Everything has been covered by other reviewers here, as far as the embarrassment of riches contained on this set from the extra tracks to the demos. Looking forward to all releases in this series, but when my other fave 'Apple Venus' is finally done, I for one will be a very happy man. Cannot be anything but a 10.

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